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    Outing and hypocrisy, cont.

    I meant to draw attention to a link I got from Joe yesterday, but I got sidetracked by spring cleaning. (Is there anything worse than having dingy sheers at your windows? I feel so much better now.) Anyway, here’s part of his response:

    I realize that for me hypocrisy is the trigger, but the justification is political. Outing is a legitimate and reasonable political response to the current political climate. It’s a deliberate, open, and peaceful act of nonviolent resistance, an act in some ways similar to civil disobedience. (And not, as Mike Rogers suggests, merely reporting.)

    I know it’s obnoxious to assume that people are disagreeing with you because they don’t understand what you’re saying, rather than that they do and just think you’re wrong. Nevertheless, I think Joe isn’t focusing on the real point.

    One of the most precious things in a free society is the ability an individual has to set his own priorities, to make his own trade-offs when he can’t optimize all values at once. In traditional societies, the wider group decides what trade-offs are best, which is why people who have their own ideas about where their talents lie or what means happiness for them so often leave them. Outing someone takes away that right. It says that self-assigned arbiters of the proper way to be gay get to dictate that someone has to be openly homosexual and just deal with the resulting loss of options. Anyone who plans on doing such a thing had better be armed with something less lame than “But he’s a hypocrite.” (Sorry, Michael. I know you’re not writing a dissertation here, but when we’re talking about revealing things about people’s private lives without their consent, you’re going to have to do better than that.)

    It’s not just that hypocrisy is insufficient as ethical grounds for outing–though it is. It’s that there may be nothing hypocritical about these people at all. If some people believe the best work they can do is as legislators or campaign leaders, and they’re willing to keep quiet about their private life to facilitate it, where’s the hypocrisy? I’m about as big a flamer as you can get without physically being on fire (as a straight acquaintance once put it), but I oppose the campaign for gay marriage, I oppose hate crimes laws, and I oppose the endless workshops for elementary school students about the variety of sexual options open to them. Perhaps I sincerely and mistakenly believe a few things that are inconsistent with each other, but I can assure you that there’s no double-dealing or cowardly self-preservation involved. It’s not at all hard to believe that there are conservative gay politicians in the same situation, and that’s their lookout.

    And as for the civil disobedience analogy, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work. Civil disobedience involves putting yourself on the line and risking arrest in order to make a point. Outing involves screwing up other people’s lives without risking anything of yourself. There’s no comparison.

    9 Responses to “Outing and hypocrisy, cont.”

    1. joe says:

      Mine is not a dissertation either, but for what it’s worth, posts take me hours to write and are mulled over and over in my mind before pressing the post button, then revisited again and again. I worried some about that civil disobedience analogy even as I wrote it; your distinction is a good one.

      But I didn’t disagree with you because I didn’t understand what you were saying, even as it’s possible that I don’t. I disagreed because in the ongoing process of developing and clarifying my own position on the topic, your post helped me realize that I place outing in a political context. My justification is political.

      I believe a greater societal good takes precedence over the individual rights you so rightly value. So the damage inflicted on all gay people is greater and takes precedence over the loss of any individual’s personal autonomy.

      I’m willing to settle for the definition of hypocrisy you offered in your first post: “Someone who advocates a law against homosexual conduct and still indulges in it is a hypocrite.”

      The price of that hypocrisy in this political climate is the risk of being outed.

    2. Outing is a political act

      Sean at White Peril on hypocrisy as a justification for outing: The word that gets me is hypocrisy, an extremely useful term that unfortunately is extremely easy to use as a catch-all. Hypocrisy is acting in a way that clearly…

    3. Need2know says:

      Lesbian Feminist Author wrote a book about this sort of tactic, called “The New Thought Police”. Great reading, highly reccomended. Somoene should send Mike Rogers a copy — and beat him over the head with it until he see’s that it’s practically a biography of him.

    4. Need2know says:

      Hey wow, your comment thingy censored the authors name (that’s +ammy Bruce with a T)

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      Okay, Joe, that’s fair enough. I do think it’s necessary to keep in mind, though, that most people do not, in fact, use that restrictive definition when talking about hypocrisy in relation to outing. For example, as I mentioned a post or two ago, Dale Carpenter (by no means a leftist hysteric) talks about opposing pro-gay legislation for “homophobic reasons,” which seems to me to open the door to all sorts of convenient rationalizations. I don’t want to beat this topic to death–I really don’t. But it gets to the heart of something I think those of us who are totally, publicly out often have a hard time with: we can’t decide how other people are allowed to be gay.

      Need2know, I have no idea why Tammy Bruce’s name would be blacklisted. I’ll ask PowerBlogs–I haven’t changed any settings. In any case, thanks for the recommendation. I’ve read Bruce’s articles a few times on being turned on by feminists, but I haven’t picked up the book.

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      Hmm. “Tammy Bruce” worked for me. Maybe a hiccough?

    7. Michael says:

      we can’t decide how other people are allowed to be gay.

      Well, I would say, for starters, not using the power granted to you by the electorate to restrict freedoms of other people just because they’re not gay the way YOU want them to be.

    8. Sean Kinsell says:

      Okay, Michael, that sounds great, but what does it mean in practice? Supporting sodomy laws? Opposing gay marriage?

    9. R MN gay state senator on outing

      The backstory of Republican Minnesota state senator Paul Koering coming out is really quite interesting. In a topsy turvy turn of events, SoVo Blog chides him: Some have hailed Koering as a “hero” for coming out, an unusual adjective for…

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